WBEZ | Rahm Emanuel http://www.wbez.org/tags/rahm-emanuel Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Madigan drops property tax mandate in pension bill http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-drops-property-tax-mandate-pension-bill-109983 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Pat-Quinn-AP-Seth-Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is removing a controversial provision from a Chicago pension bill that would have required the City Council to raise property taxes in order ease the city&rsquo;s nearly $20 billion pension crisis.</p><p>The move to strip the property-tax language in the bill came late Monday, just a few hours after Gov. Pat Quinn signalled he would not back a proposed property tax hike that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing in order to bolster the ailing pension funds for Chicago laborers and municipal workers.</p><p>&ldquo;Working with legislative leaders, bill sponsors, the Governor, and our partners in labor, we have addressed their concerns and can now move forward to save the retirements of nearly 60,000 city workers and retirees in Chicago,&rdquo; Emanuel was quoted as saying in an emailed statement late Monday afternoon.</p><p>But the removal of the property tax language doesn&rsquo;t mean Emanuel&rsquo;s tax hike proposal is going away. That plan, which would bring the city $750 million in revenue over the next five years, still seems to be central to the mayor&rsquo;s plan to pump more money into the city&rsquo;s pensions.</p><p>The difference is that state legislators, who must approve changes to Illinois pension law, don&rsquo;t have to worry about being blamed for raising Chicago property taxes during an election year. The bill&rsquo;s original language mandated that the City Council raise property taxes to pay for pensions. The latest version allows the city to use &ldquo;any available funds&rdquo; to make its annual payments.</p><p>Speaking at an event Monday morning, Emanuel said he is not trying to hang a potential property tax hike around legislators&rsquo; necks.</p><p>&ldquo;It was never anybody&rsquo;s intention to have Springfield deal with that,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s our responsibility. But I do believe to actually give the 61,000 retirees and workers the certainty they deserve, you need reform and revenue. And we&rsquo;ll deal with our responsibility.&rdquo;</p><p>Emanuel said he will continue to &ldquo;address people&rsquo;s concerns&rdquo; about the pension plan, though he would not speak directly to its fate in the City Council, which would also need to approve any property tax hike.</p><p>To placate public worker unions who had wanted a dedicated revenue stream, Madigan&rsquo;s changes also beef up the penalties if City Hall wriggles out of paying its pension contributions. The bill directs Illinois&rsquo; Comptroller to cut off state funding to the city indefinitely if it doesn&rsquo;t pay its pension tab, and it gives pension funds the right to sue City Hall in order to get their money.</p><p>The new bill would also guarantee that retirees who make $22,000 or less in annual benefits would get a cost-of-living increase of at least 1 percent each year. Prior proposals set the annual increases at the lesser of 3 percent or half the rate of inflation. Right now, city laborers and municipal workers get a guaranteed annual benefit increase of 3 percent, which builds on the previous years&rsquo; increases.</p><p>The changes to the mayor&rsquo;s proposed pension fix came just hours after Gov. Pat Quinn slammed Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;ve gotta come up with a much better comprehensive approach to deal with this issue,&rdquo; Quinn said at an unrelated press conference. &ldquo;But if they think they&rsquo;re just gonna gouge property taxpayers, no can do. We&rsquo;re not gonna go that way.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn, a populist Democrat who is seeking re-election in November, has made property tax relief central to his 2015 state budget proposal. And while he shot down Emanuel&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike, the governor did not offer an alternative source of revenue for Chicago pensions.</p><p>&ldquo;I think they need to be a whole lot more creative than I&rsquo;ve seen so far,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>State legislators could consider the new amendment as soon as Tuesday.</p></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/madigan-drops-property-tax-mandate-pension-bill-109983 Quinn quiet on mayor’s pension plan, questions property tax hikes http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-quiet-mayor%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-questions-property-tax-hikes-109966 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Quinn - AP Seth Perlman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is raising questions about whether he would support a plan to bolster Chicago&rsquo;s underfunded public pensions by raising property taxes, telling reporters today that property taxes are already &ldquo;overburdening&rdquo; state residents.</p><p>State lawmakers are now debating <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Femanuel-pension-deal-would-raise-property-taxes-trim-benefits-109948&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHVMds9AwIwUN5U23ljh0rlrgfAPg">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s plan</a> to prop up city&rsquo;s pension funds for laborers and municipal workers. Central to that is a proposal to raise property taxes by $50 million each year for five years, which would ultimately net the city $750 million. The mayor also is calling for city workers to chip in more money toward their retirement benefits, and he wants to scale back the rate at which those benefits grow each year.</p><p>But Emanuel&rsquo;s blueprint, which he said would solve about half of Chicago&rsquo;s nearly $20 billion public pension crisis, first needs approval from the state legislature and the governor, because all Illinois pensions are governed by state law.</p><p>Quinn on Thursday would not say whether he would sign the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Fbillstatus.asp%3FDocNum%3D1922%26GAID%3D12%26GA%3D98%26DocTypeID%3DSB%26LegID%3D73354%26SessionID%3D85&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCEIli0kRUcM8Np1l1LxGkpZmWDg">Chicago pension bill</a> if it landed on his desk.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know what that bill is, frankly,&rdquo; Quinn told reporters in Chicago. &ldquo;I think it has all kinds of different descriptions. They&rsquo;re, I guess, looking at it in Springfield. When they have something put together we&rsquo;ll look at it. But I wanna make it clear: I believe in reducing the burden of property taxes in our state.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn would not detail any specific concerns he had with Emanuel&rsquo;s pension plan. But he returned repeatedly to the talking points he has been using to push his own 2015 state budget proposal. &ldquo;The bottom line in our state is we have to reduce our reliance on property taxes and we have to invest in education,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>The governor&rsquo;s 2015 budget would make permanent a <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fstory%2Fincome-tax%2Ftemporary-tax-hikes-dont-always-stay-way&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHDXygwYKimhgniQZB0Efijo86f_Q">income tax hike</a> enacted in 2011, while guaranteeing all Illinois homeowners a $500 property tax refund. The governor is hoping that will allow municipalities around the state, boosted by trickle-down state income tax revenue, to lower local property taxes, which Quinn thinks disproportionately favor wealthy areas.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s Springfield allies put his plan into legislative form on Tuesday, shortly after he outlined it for reporters. The bill passed a key House pension committee on Wednesday, but is still awaiting a debate before the full House.</p><p>The State Senate, meanwhile, adjourned for the week on Thursday without taking up the plan.</p><p>The blueprint Emanuel outlined earlier this week aims to pump more money into the two pension funds for more than 56,000 city workers -- one for city laborers and the other for municipal workers, including administrators and skilled tradesmen.</p><p>By 2020, Emanuel&rsquo;s plan would finally do away with the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fexperts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGzLcw0b8YPzM-h-NQSYombAlYX5g">archaic math</a> the city has been using for decades to calculate how much money to chip into its workers&rsquo; retirements. Experts say that is a primary reason the pension funds have been shorted for decades, leading to their current dire shape. Instead, the proposal in Springfield would slowly ramp up contributions from the city, before switching over to a self-adjusting funding formula.</p><p>If the city tries to skimp on payments -- or skip them altogether -- <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Flegislation%2Ffulltext.asp%3FDocName%3D09800SB1922ham004%26GA%3D98%26SessionId%3D85%26DocTypeId%3DSB%26LegID%3D73354%26DocNum%3D1922%26GAID%3D12%26Session%3D&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNEL9MZWqOZTKPul1CQW64R2_sAHpA">the current proposal</a> allows the pension funds to take Chicago to court, or even garnish City Hall&rsquo;s share of state grant money.</p><p>But the stabilization of the pension funds would also come at a cost for taxpayers and city workers.</p><p>The mayor&rsquo;s proposed property tax hike, which would still need approval from the City Council, would cost the owner of a $250,000 home about $58 more in property taxes each year for the next five years, according to the mayor&rsquo;s office.</p><p>Current and retired city workers would also kick more into their pension funds, but get less out of them. Employee contributions would jump from the current 8.5 percent of each paycheck to 11 percent by 2019.</p><p>But the mayor also wants to scale back the rate at which those benefits grow each year. Retirees in the municipal and laborers pension funds currently see their retirement benefits grow at a 3 percent compounded annual rate. The mayor wants to cut that down to a flat 3 percent, or half the rate of inflation, whichever is smaller. And retirees would see no benefit increase in 2017, 2019 or 2025.</p><p>Several of Chicago&rsquo;s most powerful city workers&rsquo; unions quickly came out against the mayor&rsquo;s plan, arguing it violates a part of the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ilga.gov%2Fcommission%2Flrb%2Fcon13.htm&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHYjOR9TNeMJMsYGbhWyAumt2lbbA">Illinois Constitution</a> that says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>That includes the unions for police, firefighters and teachers, whose members all have their own woefully underfunded pensions systems that would not be affected by Emanuel&rsquo;s proposal. What&rsquo;s more, the mayor&rsquo;s plan does nothing to stave off a state-mandated spike in the city&rsquo;s contributions to its police and fire pensions next year, which will cost nearly $600 million.</p><p>The jump in required payments was designed to finally bring the city&rsquo;s police and fire pensions into the black, after decades of City Hall shorting the funds. But Emanuel has threatened that such a huge, one-time increase would force drastic budget cuts or steep property tax hikes.</p><p>A spokesman for venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, Quinn&rsquo;s Republican opponent in the November election, said in a statement that Rauner disagreed with the mayor&rsquo;s proposal.</p><p>&ldquo;Bruce has always maintained that true pension reform requires moving towards a defined contribution style system and believes that should also be part of the solution for Chicago,&rdquo; said campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fusers%2Fakeefe&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHCooL3ruU-DUyQdnHprdBP25WItg">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FWBEZpolitics&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNE7HeV8c3K0gV2LF_GODmIGo6nkkg">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-quiet-mayor%E2%80%99s-pension-plan-questions-property-tax-hikes-109966 Emanuel wants answers on BP oil spill http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-wants-answers-bp-oil-spill-109925 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Whiting-spill.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Although BP&rsquo;s Whiting refinery is a short distance from the city of Chicago, it is firmly in the state of Indiana and answers to that state and its agencies. But that&rsquo;s not stopping Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel from asking for a full report on this week&rsquo;s oil spill to be given to the city and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll expect a full accounting to the public and the city of Chicago of the damage that was done, how much, what the clean up efforts were, how comprehensive they have been and what actions the company will take to ensure this doesn&rsquo;t happen again,&rdquo; Emanuel said Wednesday while announcing a plan to invest $671 million to upgrade the city&rsquo;s water infrastructure.</p><p>A BP spokesman said this week it appears crude oil somehow seeped into the refinery&#39;s water filtration plant that&rsquo;s adjacent to the lake. Indiana Department of Environmental Management spokesman Dan Goldblatt told WBEZ Wednesday that unconfirmed reports put the amount of spillage at about a dozen barrels of crude oil.</p><p>BP has raised its estimate of how much oil spilled into Lake Michigan. The company said Thursday a preliminary estimate shows between 15 and 39 barrels of oil have been recovered from the lake at its Whiting refinery.</p><p>A barrel of oil can produce about 42 gallons of gasoline, so potentially 1,638 gallons of oil spilled into Lake Michigan. Earlier estimates had pegged the amount at 10 to 12 barrels of oil.</p><p>The spill was detected around 4:30 p.m. Monday. By 9 p.m. a representative with the U.S. EPA said it appeared the leak had been stopped. Cleanup continued Wednesday along the shore of a small private beach between the refinery and its neighbor ArcelorMittal Steel Company.</p><p>&ldquo;BP continues to make progress in responding to an incident Monday at the Whiting Refinery. Crews have recovered the vast majority of oil that had been visible on the surface of a cove-like area of Lake Michigan and on the shoreline between the refinery and a nearby steel mill,&rdquo; BP announced Wednesday from its US Press Office based in Houston. &ldquo;They have used vacuum trucks and absorbent boom to contain and clean up the surface oil. Responders also manually collected oil that had reached the shore.&rdquo;</p><p>BP said monitoring continues with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.</p><p>&ldquo;BP and federal agencies are assessing the shoreline to determine what, if any, next steps are required in the response,&rdquo; a company statement said. &ldquo;BP continues to work to calculate the amount of oil discharged into the lake. This work involves estimating how much oil was released into the refinery&rsquo;s cooling water system, water treatment plant and ultimately into the lake.&rdquo;</p><p>According to the U.S. EPA, its Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Team inspected the shoreline today for three hours to assess the presence of oil and to recommend cleanup techniques as required.</p><p>&ldquo;The team saw minimal oiling of the shoreline and recommended a small manual removal crew conduct maintenance along the shoreline,&rdquo; the U.S. EPA said in a news release. &ldquo;Weather and wind conditions improved overnight allowing teams to once again secure boom.&rdquo;</p><p>Sources involved in the cleanup say the crude oil that spilled into the lake was a combination of so-called sweet crude (from domestic sources) and crude from Canada&rsquo;s Tar Sands region, which is considered heavier and dirtier. The tar sands oil is a source of contention among environmentalists.</p><p>&ldquo;A spill like this one, whether big or small, will continue to garner national headlines. And that is the sort of behavior that will keep BP Whiting the refinery Chicagoans love to hate,&rdquo; Henry Henderson, Midwest program director of the Chicago office for the Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote in a blog post.</p><p>So far, no Indiana or Northwest Indiana public official have made statements regarding the spill. BP represents a major source of jobs and property taxes for Northwest Indiana, and the company just recently completed a $4 billion modernization of the more than 100 year old Whiting refinery.<br /><br />But BP often has been on the receiving end of scathing comments by Illinois officials.</p><p>Lately, Mayor Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin have taken the company to task for transporting thousands of tons of pet coke, short for petroleum coke, to a site on Chicago&rsquo;s Southeast side. Residents there have complained about the dust-like substance making them sick when it becomes airborne.<br /><br />Some city officials want the substance completely banned though so far Emanuel is only pushing an ordinance that would severely restrict the use and storage of pet coke. But with the new oil spill BP is under the microscope again.</p><p>&ldquo;I want to make sure that BP is a good corporate citizen next door in Indiana,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>And, at least for now, BP is responding.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been engaged with the mayor&rsquo;s office since the onset of this incident and are providing his office with regular updates, &ldquo; BP spokesman Scott Dean told WBEZ Wednesday night. &ldquo;We will also continue to keep the public and relevant authorities informed as we investigate this matter.&rdquo;</p><p><em>This post was updated on March 28, 2014.</em></p></p> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 08:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-wants-answers-bp-oil-spill-109925 Pet coke only the latest pollution threat on the Southeast side http://www.wbez.org/news/pet-coke-only-latest-pollution-threat-southeast-side-109811 <p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to introduce an ordinance Wednesday calling for stricter controls over petroleum coke, aka pet coke. It comes a day after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a new lawsuit against KCBX, a company that stores pet coke on Chicago&rsquo;s Southeast Side.</p><p>Many residents there believe the giant piles of pet coke along the Calumet River have had an adverse effect on their health. But some officials say pet coke is only the tip of the ash heap when it comes to industrial pollution in the area and the respiratory problems it may cause.</p><p>Problems such as asthma, which can be a nagging health issue for some, but is a life-threatening condition for Liz Martin.</p><p>&ldquo;I take medication every day to help control it but when it gets really bad then there&rsquo;s different medications and machines that I have to take for like immediate care but there&rsquo;s like controller medications that I have to take everyday for who knows how long,&rdquo; says the 21-year-old Martin, who&rsquo;s studying computer science at Saint Xavier University Chicago.</p><p>And while most Chicagoans can&rsquo;t wait for winter to be over, Liz knows warmer temps could make things worse.<br /><br />&ldquo;When the weather starts getting better and the winds start picking up, I get flu, colds, pneumonia, everything. My allergies just go crazy and I don&rsquo;t know how to handle it. It&rsquo;s not something that medication can really handle,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Beyond the weather, there&rsquo;s another problem. Liz and her mother Lilly live just a few blocks from KCBX&rsquo;s pet coke storage site along the Calumet River.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Beyond%20Pet%20coke%203.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; width: 233px; height: 310px;" title="Liz and Lilly Martin at their Southeast Chicago home. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)" />That&rsquo;s where this whole controversy started last August when high winds caused the pet coke to blow all over the neighborhood. Caught on video, the black dust-like substance looked like a swarm of locusts.</p><p>Pet coke isn&rsquo;t new to this area. It&rsquo;s been used for decades by local steel mills. In fact, Lilly Martin remembers gathering it in buckets for her parents who used it as dirt.</p><p>&ldquo;At that time, we used to walk by the bridge and we would get it but we never knew that pet coke was bad, and we would get it,&rdquo; Lilly Martin said. &ldquo;Maybe that&rsquo;s why my mom and dad, they were young, they died 65, 60.&rdquo;</p><p>Martin is one of several Southeast Side residents suing KCBX for creating a health hazard and diminishing property values. Meanwhile, politicians are tripping over themselves to show support for the residents of this often neglected corner of the city.</p><p>Those who have paid a visit in recent weeks include Illinois U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan.</p><p>Mayor Emanuel also visited in January.</p><p>Today, he&rsquo;s expected to formally introduce an ordinance to prevent any new or expanded pet coke operations in the city.&nbsp;</p><p>That could directly affect KCBX, which has been in the city for 20 years although it only acquired its facility near the 106th Street Bridge in December 2012. The company has a contract with oil giant BP&rsquo;s nearby Whiting, Indiana refinery to store the pet coke before it is transported overseas.</p><p>Facing litigation and pressure, KCBX says it has increased its dust control systems. It points to a new multi-million dollar sprinkler system that prevents pet coke from blowing away.</p><p>KCBX spokesman Jake Reint says the company may go even further.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re willing to even cover the facility. The bottom line is we respect and understand the community&rsquo;s concerns,&rdquo; Reint said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to make every effort to address those concerns.&rdquo;</p><p>But even if the mayor&rsquo;s pet coke ordinance is adopted, some say this area will still be plagued by pollution.</p><p>&ldquo;Eliminating one thing, isn&rsquo;t going to solve the problem. It&rsquo;s not going to go away,&rdquo; says Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs with the Respiratory Health Association of Chicago. &ldquo;Getting rid of the pet coke piles would obviously benefit the area, but there&rsquo;s a lot more work to do other than just trying to clean up the KCBX situation.&rdquo;</p><p>The RHA tracks pollution sources in the city and its effects on people&rsquo;s health.</p><p>Urbaszewski says its worth remembering that the South East Side has been the city&rsquo;s industrial corridor for more than a century. And its probably no coincidence that it has some of the highest asthma rates in Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s just a lot of train traffic, there&rsquo;s a lot of truck traffic that goes through here and it&rsquo;s one of the few places in Chicago that actually gets ship traffic,&rdquo; Urbaszeweski said. &ldquo;And then you have a huge powerhouse of industrial emissions coming from just over the border in Indiana. All that contributes to what you see here on the Southeast side.&rdquo;</p><p>While pollution is a prime suspect for the area&rsquo;s high asthma and cancer rates, no one knows for sure.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Triggers can be the weather, the environment, certainly genetics plays a role, environmental issues, allergens, toxins, the common cold,&rdquo; Dr. Max Gilles, head of the emergency department at nearby Advocate Trinity Hospital.</p><p>Advocate&rsquo;s Emergency Department. sees about 40,000 patients a year &mdash; nearly 1 in 10 come in due to asthma.</p><p>But that&rsquo;s not all.</p><p>&ldquo;We see a 17 percent higher rate of heart disease than in the Chicago rate area itself; greater than 50 percent higher cancer rate, which can include breast cancer, lung cancer and prostate than the Chicago rate. And, greater 53 percent high stroke rate,&rdquo; Gilles says. &ldquo;So we see a lot of sick patients.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Beyond%20Pet%20coke%202.jpg" style="margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px;" title="Dr. Max Gilles of Advocate Trinity Hospital handling an asthma breathing device with respiratory therapist Belinda Brown. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)" /></div><p>Dr. Gilles is quick to point out that it&rsquo;s hard to prove a direct correlation between industry and illness, but he says it wouldn&rsquo;t hurt to eliminate some possible contributors.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Certainly when I do drive in - whether it&rsquo;s to work or other places - you do see smoke stacks, exhausts fumes from cars and it&rsquo;s certainly a concern,&rdquo; Gilles says. &ldquo;If you eliminate that source, I don&rsquo;t think it would eliminate all asthma or chronic disease related to that possibility but it would certainly point it in the right direction.&rdquo;</p><p>Back at the Martins&rsquo; home, Lilly shows me some breathing contraptions that Liz uses for her asthma.</p><p>Even if there&rsquo;s no direct link, she&rsquo;s convinced eliminating the nearby pet coke would help. As proof, she points to the expensive air filters that keeps the inside air clean for her daughter.</p><p>&ldquo;You shouldn&rsquo;t have to change these filters in less than six months, and we were changing it every two to three weeks. That&rsquo;s how black those filters are,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Meanwhile Liz Martin doesn&rsquo;t go outside much. She often sits at her front window watching the world go by, and waiting for things to change.</p><p>When asked if it makes her feel better knowing the city is trying to do something, Liz says, &ldquo;Yea it does cause I mean it&rsquo;s better for everyone. The little kids that have to grow up here. Everyday I look outside, there&rsquo;s like 4 or 5 year olds hanging out. They don&rsquo;t have an immune system to work up to it. It just makes me feel better that they might get some help.&rdquo;</p></p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 07:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/pet-coke-only-latest-pollution-threat-southeast-side-109811 Emanuel: Pet coke handlers 'not wanted' in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pet-coke-handlers-not-wanted-chicago-109694 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rahm Petcoke 1.jpeg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday that he will propose an ordinance concerning pet coke at next month&rsquo;s City Council meeting. The goal is to make it difficult for the handlers of the petroleum by-product to operate within the city.</p><p>By doing so, Emanuel is taking direct aim at KCBX Terminals Inc., located along the Calumet River on the Southeast side, a longtime industrial area surrounded by mostly low income minority residents.<br /><br />The firm has been under heavy scrutiny from residents and politicians since last summer when high winds caused the dust-like petroleum coke to blow into nearby homes.</p><p>&ldquo;Through the regulations we&rsquo;re going to put in, it&rsquo;s going to be very expensive to operate here and therefore they are going to choose to leave,&rdquo; Emanuel told WBEZ on Wednesday. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to make sure the ordinance puts up a &lsquo;not wanted&rsquo; sign in the City of Chicago as it relates to pet coke.&rdquo;<br /><br />The proposed ordinance would prohibit new pet coke, coke, and coal facilities from opening in the City of Chicago and ban expansions of existing facilities. If approved, it would prevent any new or expanded pet coke operations, including processing, transporting, storing or handling of the material.<br /><br />This would have a direct impact on KCBX which has a contract to handle thousands of tons of pet coke trucked in daily from BP&rsquo;s Refinery in Whiting, Indiana.<br /><br />The amount KCBX receives from BP could increase threefold since a modernization project at the Whiting plant recently installed a new coker that will ramp up production from 2,000 tons of pet coke daily to 6,000 tons a day.<br /><br />Emanuel says he&rsquo;s pushing for the ordinance because the dust-like pet coke prevents residents on Chicago&rsquo;s far southeast side from enjoying life outdoors. That was the concern late last August when high winds caused much of the ash-like pet coke to blow into people&rsquo;s yards.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re sitting in the backyard having a picnic, you get up and come back and your plate is black. And it&rsquo;s a sense that people could not live in their own neighborhood without inhaling this product or it being all over their clothes or all over their food. And that&rsquo;s just not how people are supposed to live in the City of Chicago,&rdquo; Emanuel said.<br /><br />Even with the ordinance, Emanuel says the city is still industry friendly.</p><p>&ldquo;You can manufacture, you can build, you can do all the things you want to do here in the City of Chicago. And, we have companies that are thriving, just like the Ford plant, not too far from there, but they are good corporate citizens,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s what I&rsquo;m looking for, somebody who wants to create jobs and be a part of the community in all aspects. Dumping an environmental product that damages our health is not something that we want to welcome.&rdquo;<br /><br />KCBX Terminals says it has invested millions in upgrades to its facility along the Calumet River that will eliminate pet coke from becoming airborne. The system was not in place during the incident last August.<br /><br />Company spokesman Jake Rient says KCBX is reviewing the ordinance and trying to determine the implications on its operations, which employs about 40 people.<br /><br />&ldquo;As a company, we are always concerned when we hear mayors say they don&rsquo;t want to see business invest in their city. We don&rsquo;t think that&rsquo;s the right message,&rdquo; Rient said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re really committed to to doing the right thing and we&rsquo;ve been open to working with the city and address our neighbors&rsquo; concerns.&rdquo;<br /><br />Meanwhile, the Illinois Manufacturers Association says Emanuel&rsquo;s proposal is unnecessary and will cost jobs.<br /><br />&quot;This ordinance is a solution in search of a problem. Unfortunately, the approach outlined today will cost Chicago jobs and revenue at a time when they are struggling economically.&nbsp; The Illinois Manufacturers&#39; Association does not believe that there is any justification for banning or arbitrarily limiting the processing, storage, transport or handling of petcoke in Chicago.&nbsp; According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, petcoke is not hazardous &ndash; in fact, it is a valued commodity that has broad application in the manufacturing sector,&rdquo; said Mark Denzler, vice president and COO of the IMA.<br /><br />The issue of pet coke has lead to a lawsuit filed by residents living near the plant and others filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.<br /><br />A lawsuit brought by Madigan forced Hammond, Indiana-based Beemsterboer Slag Company, which has operations on the Southeast side, to agree to stop taking in any more pet coke from KCBX Terminals. KCBX Terminals is owned by the wealthy conservative Koch Brothers.<br /><br />Tom Shepherd of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, has a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to Emanuel&rsquo;s proposal.<br /><br />&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been trying to sqeeze KCBX out, kick them out and legislate them out or whatever it would take. We would be very happy if that were the result,&rdquo; Shepherd said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re unsure if this ordinance will be open to challenge. We would have liked to see an ordinance to banish pet coke from the city. We&rsquo;re still hoping to see the pet coke gone.&rdquo;<br /><br />Despite it being six months since the first major episode of flying pet coke, Shepherd said the substance is still turning up in and around the neighborhood.<br /><br />Last month, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn tried and failed to implement a statewide emergency order to severely restrict the handling and storage of pet coke at facilities around the state.<br /><br />The Illinois Pollution Control Board rejected his emergency plea. Board members say the Governor&rsquo;s new guidelines will go through the regular channels of consideration.&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 12 Feb 2014 18:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pet-coke-handlers-not-wanted-chicago-109694 Cab, livery companies sue city over rideshare companies http://www.wbez.org/news/cab-livery-companies-sue-city-over-rideshare-companies-109655 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Rideshare lawsuit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A group of mostly taxi and livery companies have filed suit against the City of Chicago, claiming that the city has tolerated, and even promoted, &ldquo;unlawful transportation providers&rdquo; to undermine their industries. Their case focuses on technology companies Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, which offer smartphone apps that allow people who need rides to find people with cars, for a fare. The suit claims that the city has denied the plaintiffs equal protection under the law, by forcing them to abide by rules and regulations that have not been applied to the technology companies.</p><p>At the heart of their complaint is the assertion that the companies, which call their services &ldquo;ridesharing,&rdquo; are de facto cab companies.</p><p>&ldquo;This isn&rsquo;t ridesharing,&rdquo; said Michael Shakman, an attorney representing the plaintiffs. &ldquo;They sell services 24/7 to the general public, they charge by time and distance, and they&rsquo;re an on-demand service. They&rsquo;re exactly a taxi service, not a rideshare.&rdquo;</p><p>At a press conference Thursday, Shakman accused the city of allowing a taxi &ldquo;caste&rdquo; system to emerge, whereby Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are allowed to focus only on passengers who have credit cards, smartphones, and live in high-income neighborhoods.</p><p>&ldquo;They are not available at all to the disabled or to people who pay with cash,&rdquo; Shakman said. &ldquo;This taxi &lsquo;caste&rsquo; system excludes large portions of the population on racial, economic and disability grounds, and it thereby violates the Illinois Civil Rights Act.&rdquo;</p><p>Also joining the lawsuit is Brad Saul, President of Chicago Disability Transit, a non-profit that provides paratransit options for people with special needs. Saul said on the occasions he attempted to get a car from ridesharing companies, they did not have any that were able to accommodate his wheelchair.</p><p>&ldquo;As a platform, we don&rsquo;t force drivers to use it a certain way,&rdquo; said John Zimmer, co-founder of Lyft, &ldquo;but as a broad platform there&rsquo;s drivers who do support that.&rdquo; Zimmer said in many of the 20 markets where Lyft now operates, there are people who drive wheelchair-accessible vehicles.</p><p>But while Saul and other plaintiffs argue that the companies should have to serve people in all neighborhoods, and with disabilities, the lawsuit also dwells heavily on the economic injury they say they are suffering. Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber&rsquo;s ridesharing service, called uberX, typically are cheaper than taxis, although when demand is high, they use a surge-pricing model that can lead to steeper charges.</p><p>Additionally, there is a relatively low cost of entry for their drivers. Cabbies must have city-issued medallions, currently priced at roughly $350,000 each, as well as mandated insurance, worker&rsquo;s compensation, and vehicles that are no more than four years old. Taxi and livery drivers are also required to attend school and be licensed as public chauffeurs, neither of which are necessary for rideshare drivers.</p><p>Representatives from Lyft and Uber dispute the underlying characterization of their service as a taxi service &mdash; and argue that&rsquo;s why they shouldn&rsquo;t be regulated as cab and livery vehicles.</p><p>&ldquo;A taxi can hail someone from the street, and when you have something like a street hail, it creates different dynamics and different safety requirements,&rdquo; said Zimmer. &ldquo;You don&rsquo;t have choice over the company, you don&rsquo;t have information on the driver, you haven&rsquo;t agreed to a terms of service, and you have a lot less information. And with a service like Lyft, you&rsquo;re choosing to use Lyft, you see information about the driver, about the car, and there&rsquo;s many more differences.&rdquo;</p><p>The lawsuit comes a day after lines of disagreement surfaced at City Hall. Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/city-moves-regulate-rideshare-companies-109639">introduced an ordinance to create regulations</a> for the industry, designating a new category of transportation called &ldquo;Transportation Network Providers.&rdquo; The proposal would allow the ridesharing services to continue many of their operations, but would require them to register annually with the city, maintain minimum standards of general commercial and commercial vehicle liability insurance, pay the city&rsquo;s Ground Transportation Tax, and have drivers&rsquo; cars inspected annually.</p><p>Plaintiffs in the lawsuit say the proposal falls short, and they don&rsquo;t like the idea of a separate set of rules.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s bad public policy to create a second taxi system designed for the elite who happen to be fortunate enough to live in neighborhoods where taxi drivers are willing to take them,&rdquo; said Shakman.</p><p>At the same City Council meeting, Aldermen Anthony Beale (9th) and Edward Burke (14th) proposed a <a href="https://chicago.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=F&amp;ID=2902650&amp;GUID=AE467792-6BF2-425E-85C7-6C05D0CFBD3C">resolution </a>calling for the Police Superintendent and Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to immediately apply the existing taxicab rules to the ridesharing services.</p><p>&ldquo;We need to make sure that the consumers are protected,&rdquo; said Beale, &ldquo;and so we need to take the steps on shutting them down and then work towards a solution to make sure they&rsquo;re regulated.&rdquo;</p><p>The resolution is not binding, but will go to a joint committee on Transportation and Finance, of which Beale and Burke are chairs, respectively. As such, they may ask enforcement officials to offer testimony as to why the city has not applied its rules on taxicabs and livery to the ridesharing services.</p><p>Representatives of Uber and Lyft say they expect there will be regulation of their service, and that they are in favor of measures to promote safety. But they say the push by cab and livery companies to have them adhere to the same rules that they do will stifle technological innovation.</p><p>&ldquo;Hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans rely on uberX precisely because it is a faster, safer, and cheaper way of getting around their city,&rdquo; wrote Andrew MacDonald, Midwest Regional Manager for Uber, in an e-mail. &ldquo;After years of neglecting Chicago drivers and passengers alike, the taxi industry has resorted to name-calling and frivolous lawsuits. While they spend time in court, we&#39;ll be working with Mayor Emmanuel (sic) to design a forward-looking regulatory regime that creates economic opportunity, prioritizes safety, and ensures access to the best, cheapest rides ever available in the city.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 06 Feb 2014 20:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cab-livery-companies-sue-city-over-rideshare-companies-109655 Mayor's borrowing authority hiked by council http://www.wbez.org/news/mayors-borrowing-authority-hiked-council-109644 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP168520649673_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago aldermen today gave Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration its final okay to borrow up to $900 million dollars to pay for city equipment, capital projects, and legal settlements, and to refinance old debt.</p><p>The City Council also approved another $1 billion in borrowing for Midway Airport, and agreed to double the city&rsquo;s short-term borrowing limit from the current $500 million to $1 billion.</p><p>The borrowing plans all passed on a 43-4 vote, with no debate.</p><p>Alderman John Arena (45th Ward) said he voted no because the Emanuel administration did not give specifics on exactly how the newly borrowed money would be spent.</p><p>&ldquo;Unless we have a real debate on this, a real dialogue, and get real information from the administration in real time -- and enough time to make an educated vote -- then I&rsquo;m gonna continue to vote no on these types of things,&rdquo; Arena said after the vote.</p><p>Also voting against the borrowing plans were 42nd Ward Ald. Brendan Reilly, 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack and 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti. Ed Burke, the alderman of the 14th Ward and chairman of the powerful Finance Committee that held a hearing on the borrowing plans, abstained from voting.</p><p>Though the city got the council&rsquo;s authorization to issue up to $900 million on bonds, the Emanuel administration will likely issue about $650 million, said city Finance Department spokeswoman Kelley Quinn. About $349 million of that would help pay for legal settlements, capital projects, and so-called &ldquo;aldermanic menu&rdquo; accounts that aldermen use at their discretion to fund projects in their wards.</p><p>But some financial watchdogs have raised concerns about the other roughly $301 million in borrowing, which will be used to restructure debt. At least some of that -- up to $130 million -- could be used to push upcoming debt payments off into the future. That means the city saves money with smaller payments in the short term, but ends up paying more in the long-run.</p><p>The city will likely issue $550 million of the Midway Airport bonds for upgrades to runways and taxiways, Quinn said.</p><p>The short-term credit extension doubles the amount of so-called &ldquo;commercial paper&rdquo; the city can borrow. It is often used to cover city operations.</p><p>The first bond issue, set for March, will mark Chicago&rsquo;s first test of the municipal bond market since July, when Moody&rsquo;s Investors Service <a href="https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-downgrades-Chicago-to-A3-from-Aa3-affecting-82-billion--PR_278069">hit the city</a> with a triple downgrade of its bond rating, citing the city&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/experts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329">massive pension problems</a>.</p><p>Much like a person with a bad credit score, governments with low bond ratings have to pay higher interest rates when they borrow money.</p><p>Emanuel defended his borrowing requests after Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting as the usual course of government business.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s typical efforts to invest in our streets, our sidewalks, light poles -- all the other infrastructure that improves our neighborhoods,&rdquo; Emanuel said.</p><p>Emanuel added the city&rsquo;s budget problems are deep enough that it will take time to dig out of them.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe" target="_blank">Alex Keefe</a>&nbsp;is a political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 05 Feb 2014 16:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/mayors-borrowing-authority-hiked-council-109644 City moves to regulate rideshare companies http://www.wbez.org/news/city-moves-regulate-rideshare-companies-109639 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 10.02.40 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p>The days of Chicago&rsquo;s Wild West of ridesharing services may be numbered, if the city has its way. The Mayor&rsquo;s office introduced new rules at Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting, aimed at bringing the technology companies into the regulatory fold. But the move is already angering some who say the city should use its existing regulations for taxicabs and livery vehicles, rather than create a new set of rules.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a new industry that&rsquo;s still in the early stages and we wanted to step in, create some requirements that provide for public safety and consumer protection, but do that without essentially regulating the industry out of existence,&rdquo; said Michael Negron, Chief of Policy to the Mayor.</p><p>The proposed ordinance creates a new category of commercial vehicle transportation, called &ldquo;Transportation Network Providers,&rdquo; meant for technology companies that connect people who need rides, to people who have cars. Currently, this would include companies like Lyft, Uber and Sidecar, which have operations in Chicago. Unlike taxi drivers, people offering rides with these services use their personal cars, which do not have to be registered with or inspected by the city. The drivers also do not have to undergo training or licensing as public chauffeurs.</p><p>&ldquo;Now that the industry&rsquo;s been up and running for a bit, we want to be able to step in and impose what we think are ultimately some common sense requirements,&rdquo; said Negron, &ldquo;that ensure that when people step into a rideshare vehicle they know that the driver has gotten a background check and the driver&rsquo;s been drug tested and that the vehicle has been inspected and that they&rsquo;re getting the fare disclosed to them.&rdquo;</p><p>The ordinance would require the companies to register with the city and pay an annual $25,000 licensing fee, as well as $25 per driver with their service. It would also subject the companies to the city&rsquo;s ground transportation tax &mdash; $3.50 per day, per vehicle, for each day that the vehicle is used in Chicago for ground transportation. Additionally, the vehicles would have to display signage or an emblem that identifies their ridesharing service, and would have to be inspected annually by the city.</p><p>But perhaps the most significant cost that the rules would require are general commercial liability insurance and commercial automobile liability insurance policies of $1 million per occurrence.</p><p>&ldquo;Uber&rsquo;s existing policy meets that requirement,&rdquo; said Andrew MacDonald, Regional Manager for Uber Midwest. &ldquo;The basic premise is our insurance policy, as designed with our carrier, does cover a driver on an Uber trip regardless of the personal insurance policy.&rdquo; The company, however, declined to share a copy of that policy with WBEZ.</p><p>Several drivers, some of whom asked not to be named because they still drive for&nbsp; UberX and Lyft, told WBEZ that they were offered little or no detailed information about the companies&rsquo; insurance policies when they went through their orientation sessions.</p><p>&ldquo;People asked about what to do if there were problems,&rdquo; one said, &ldquo;but the answer was always to call Lyft Support,&rdquo; a hotline that the service provides for its drivers. &ldquo;They verified my insurance,&rdquo; said another driver for UberX, &ldquo;but never explained anything about what would happen in the case of a very bad accident.&rdquo;</p><p>Lyft, too, claims to carry an insurance policy of $1 million per occurrence, but it is an &ldquo;excess policy&rdquo; that kicks in after the driver&rsquo;s personal insurance has been used. The proposed ordinance would no longer allow this.</p><p>&ldquo;For us, it&rsquo;s like we are completely on board with provisions that increase consumer safety,&rdquo; said MacDonald, referring to the idea of new regulations. &ldquo;But beyond safety issues, I think controls on pricing, overreach on information, limitations on where cars could operate &mdash; all of that stuff starts to be not about safety, but starts to be about protectionism, and doesn&rsquo;t benefit the consumer, and doesn&rsquo;t create jobs, so that&rsquo;s where I get really concerned,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The ordinance proposes that drivers with the services may collect fares determined by distance or time, or that are predetermined, or that are suggested donations. It would no longer allow the companies to apply formulas that calculate fares as a combination of time and distance. It also does not address &ldquo;price-surging&rdquo; or &ldquo;prime time tipping&rdquo; &mdash; a practice where Uber and Lyft hikes their fares when demand is high.</p><p>&ldquo;This ordinance is simply enabling an illegal activity which is a cab-like activity to take place,&rdquo; said Pat Corrigan, owner of The Yellow Group LLC, which operates Yellow Cab in Chicago. &ldquo;So this is not something the cab industry can stand by and see.&rdquo;</p><p>Corrigan and others from Chicago&rsquo;s cab and livery industries say they are prepared to file a federal lawsuit against the City of Chicago to compel the city to regulate ridesharing services the same way as their industries.</p><p>&ldquo;The public transportation system, which is the taxi system as you know it, has all these rules and regulations,&rdquo; he continued, &ldquo;including it can&rsquo;t charge more than the meter. UberX, Sidecar and Lyft, can charge basically anything they want.&rdquo;</p><p>Corrigan noted that cab companies must offer worker&rsquo;s compensation, use vehicles that are less than four years old, accept forms of payment other than credit card, and service all neighborhoods of the city &mdash; requirements that are not part of the proposed rules for ridesharing companies.</p><p>The arrival of ridesharing companies has certainly complicated the city&rsquo;s position. Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the city has touted itself as technology-friendly, and appears to have dropped early objections to Uber&rsquo;s taxi operations in the city. But at the same time, Chicago brings in tens of millions of dollars each year in taxes and fees from taxis &mdash; an industry whose value rests largely on maintaining the value of the medallions.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s certainly not good for the medallion system,&rdquo; added Corrigan, &ldquo;because you have another system that&rsquo;s competing &mdash; a private system of transportation &mdash; for some of the people in the city that can afford it, competing against the public system.&rdquo;</p><p>Taxicab medallion owners and lenders have been nervously watching the growth of ridesharing in the city, worried that it may undermine the value of their investments. Medallions, which the city issues in limited number to license taxis, are valued at roughly $350,000 apiece.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 05 Feb 2014 09:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/city-moves-regulate-rideshare-companies-109639 $15 minimum wage in Chicago? Industry groups have mixed reactions http://www.wbez.org/news/15-minimum-wage-chicago-industry-groups-have-mixed-reactions-109611 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Lucha%20por%2015b.JPG" style="width: 620px;" title="Activists rally Thursday in downtown Chicago for the proposal, which would cover companies with annual revenue of more than $50 million. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />A ballot measure asking whether Chicago should require big companies to pay their workers at least $15 an hour is drawing mixed reactions from groups representing some of those employers.<br /><br />The Illinois Retail Merchants Association is sounding an alarm. &ldquo;This question really puts jobs in jeopardy,&rdquo; said Tanya Triche, the association&rsquo;s general counsel. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s the opposite direction that employers and employees want to go in the city.&rdquo;<br /><br />But the Illinois Restaurant Association did not criticize the proposal, which will appear as a nonbinding referendum March 18 in parts of the city.</p><p>&ldquo;The discussion around the minimum-wage increase is extremely important to the restaurant industry, which is just beginning to see recovery after a long and difficult recession,&rdquo; Sam Toia, the restaurant association&rsquo;s president and CEO, said in a written statement. &ldquo;We look forward to continued conversations with all stakeholders on the minimum-wage increase and its impact on businesses of all sizes.&rdquo;<br /><br />The proposed $15 minimum, backed by a group called the Raise Chicago Coalition, would apply only to companies with annual revenue of more than $50 million. The targets include franchises of restaurant chains such as McDonald&rsquo;s, not just the giant corporations themselves, according to Amisha Patel, a spokeswoman of the coalition.<br /><br />The referendum will take place in 103 of the city&rsquo;s 2,069 precincts &mdash; about 5 percent.<br /><br />On Thursday, 10 Chicago aldermen participated in a news conference to drum up support for the proposal.</p><p>&ldquo;You should not have to go to work and come home and still find yourself in poverty after putting in a hard day&rsquo;s work,&rdquo; Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward) said. &ldquo;So I&rsquo;ll be encouraging all residents in my ward where this [question is on the ballot] to vote yes for the increase.&rdquo;<br /><br />The other aldermen at the news conference were John Arena (45th), Will Burns (4th), Bob Fioretti (2nd), Toni Foulkes (15th), Leslie Hairston (5th), Ricardo Muñoz (22nd), Roderick Sawyer (6th), Nick Sposato (36th) and Scott Waguespack (32nd).</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office did not answer whether he supported the proposal but said he backed calls for hikes at the state and federal levels. &ldquo;The mayor has long advocated for an increase in the minimum wage and supports the efforts by President Obama and Governor Quinn to provide a wage that is fair to working families,&rdquo; spokeswoman Catherine Turco said in a written statement.<br /><br />Quinn on Wednesday called for a state minimum wage of at least $10 an hour. The Illinois minimum has been $8.25 since 2010.<br /><br />Obama is calling for a federal hourly minimum of $10.10, up from $7.25, the rate since 2009. The White House on Tuesday announced that the president would sign an executive order to raise the minimum wage for some federal contract workers to $10.10.<br /><br />In 2006, a planned Chicago minimum wage for big-box retailers led to Mayor Richard M. Daley&rsquo;s first veto.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a>&nbsp;is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 30 Jan 2014 19:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/15-minimum-wage-chicago-industry-groups-have-mixed-reactions-109611 Morning Shift: The life and legend of Mavis Staples and The Staples Singers http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-01-30/morning-shift-life-and-legend-mavis-staples-and <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Mavis Flickr debra_amerson.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Sound Opinions co-host and Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot swings by for Music Thursday to talk about the life and music of Chicago legend Mavis Staples. Kot is author of I&#39;ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March up Freedom&#39;s Highway which is out now.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-life-and-legend-of-mavis-staples/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-life-and-legend-of-mavis-staples.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-life-and-legend-of-mavis-staples" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: The life and legend of Mavis Staples and The Staples Singers" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Thu, 30 Jan 2014 08:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-01-30/morning-shift-life-and-legend-mavis-staples-and